Aston Villa 1, Man City 2
First half goals by Ruben Dias and Bernardo Silva were enough to beat Aston Villa who couldn’t build on a second half goal by Ollie Watkins.Embed from Getty Images
The new Aston Villa manager had won his first two games in charge of the team but he faced a stern test at home to Manchester City who were looking for an eighth straight win over the Villans.
Gerrard’s team were soon 2-0 down at half time through goals by Ruben Dias and Bernardo Silva.
Villa pulled a goal back through Ollie Watkins as they troubled City early in the second half but City managed to regain their composure to notch up their sixth straight win in all competitions but remained in second place after Chelsea and Liverpool also won tonight.
The win was City boss Pep Guardiola’s 150th in the Premier League – and he became the fastest manager to reach that landmark – taking just 204 games.
City captain Ruben Dias was proud of the performance – and his goal – against a tricky opponent.
He said: “They were a bit on fire with a new manager – two wins from two – so it was important to pick up the three points and we are happy.
“It was a special goal for me but Bernado’s goal was even more special!
“We were always in control of the game – that’s what our team is made of.”
Pep Guardiola acknowledged the challenge that Aston Villa offered.
He said: “The game we played was fantastic. Aston Villa have a lot of quality.
“It was a difficult game, and we reacted well after conceding a goal early in the second half.”
He was pleased with his goalscorer too, starting with the excellent finish by Bernardo Silva, purring over the rare counter attacking goal:
“Sometimes we can run too – it was a fantastic goal.
“With players of Bernardo’s quality [their skill] depends on them.
”Ruben [Dias] had a lot of personality and scored a good goal too.”
But he would not commit to availability of players for the trip to Watford this weekend ahead of a packed December schedule, adding:
“I don’t know – hopefully they come back soon but I don’t know – today I brought five players from the academy. There is no alternative.”
Covid and suspension ruled out Kevin De Bruyne and Aymeric Laporte respectively as City’s injury ‘emergency’ saw six senior players miss out in all – Laporte and De Bruyne were joined on the sidelines by Kyle Walker, John Stones, Ilkay Gundogan, and Ferran Torres.
Jack Grealish and Phil Foden were considered fit enough for the bench which was filled with EDS talent who beat Leeds United 3-2 win on Monday.
Cole Palmer and James McAtee have had first team appearances this season and they were joined by Luke Mbete, Romeo Lavia, and Josh Wilson-Esbrand.
City’s selection was arguably their weakest of the season but it still contained players such as Oleksandr Zinchenko, Nathan Ake, and Fernandinho who replaced Kyle Walker, Laporte, and Ilkay Gundogan thanks to injury and suspension.
Joao Cancelo was free to start in his favoured right back berth and he produced a fine save from Emiliano Martinez in the opening seconds of the game while Gabriel Jesus almost tricked his way through the massed Villa defence as City pushed their hosts onto the back foot from the start.
Leon Bailey came closest to a shot on Ederson’s goal but his effort was blocked by Zinchenko.
Matty Cash brought down Jesus but escaped a possible penalty shout after 14 minutes while Zinchenko’s tame kong range shot never tested Martinez.
Ruben Dias and Matt Targett made clearances as the game opened up and Dias opened the scoring after 27 minutes with a 25 yard daisy cutter with his left boot that took a deflection off Bailey after a deep ball back to him from Raheem Sterling who had another good game for City.
It was only the second goal he had ever scored for City as the Portuguese defender became the 17th player to score for City this season.
The luckless Bailey, who had a mixed start to the game, pulled his thigh while tracking back and had to go off with ex-United winger Ashley Young replacing him after 31 minutes.
City were confident enough to stroke the ball about before half time as Villa chased shadows.
Bernardo Silva scores goal of the season contender in a rare Manchester City counter attack
And City soon made it 2-0 after 43 minutes when Bernardo Silva struck a beautiful volley for his fifth goal of the season after a brilliantly executed counter attack saw him get in the end of a Gabriel Jesus delivery after Fernandinho sparked the counter attack from deep in the City half – ending in a perfect cross from the right.
Within 90 seconds of the second half though Ollie Watkins had reduced the deficit from a corner driving a half volley inside the near post from a corner by ex-City midfielder Douglas Luiz.
It was the fourth goal of the season for Watkins – his third in his last three games at Villa Park.
Villa were resurgent and Ezri Konsa appealed for a penalty just before the hour mark after he was forced wide when the ball came in from Ashley Young – with Ake putting off the Villa man enough to concede only a corner while getting the benefit of the doubt from VAR.
But Villa then lost Matt Targett to injury after an aerial clash with Cancelo – he was replaced by Carney Chukwuemeka as Gerrard was forced into a reshuffle and Young had to fill in at left back.
Jesus wasted a great cross by Silva – his great touch to pluck it out of the air was followed by a wayward shot as City started to play their way back into the game.
But Villa had a great chance to go level when Chukwuemeka was sent clear by Buendia only for Ederson to make the save with 15 minutes to go.
Matty Cash’s long throw were causing City problems and Morgan Sanson became Gerrard’s last throw of the dice – replacing Marvellous Nakamba.
City had plenty of defending to do as Villa posed plenty of issues toward the end.
Jack Grealish was booed by the home crowd as he warmed up with 7 minutes to go – he came on the 3 minutes to go to a mixed welcome.
But with Fernandinho at his niggling best the home side could not grab a second goal.
Sanson brought down Silva on the edge of the Villa but Mahrez sent a tame free kick into the arms of Martinez – and City took that as the signal to keep the ball away from their hosts and see out the win.
GOALS – Aston Villa 1, Man City 2
Aston Villa 0, Man City 1: 27. Ruben Dias’ deflected shot from 25 yards out beat Emiliano Martinez.
Aston Villa 0, Man City 2: 43. A cross from the Villa right by Matty Targett saw City break quickly down the opposite flank and Gabriel Jesus delivered a brilliant cross which the tireless Bernardo Silva volleyed in past Emiliano Martinez.
Aston Villa 1, Man City 2: 47. Ollie Watkins drove home a low half volley in off the post direct from a disputed corner by Douglas Luiz.
MATCH STATS – Aston Villa 1, Man City 2
Aston Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett (Chukwuemeka 67), McGinn, Nakamba (Sanson 77), Luiz, Bailey (Young 31), Buendia, Watkins
Aston Villa subs not used: Steer, Tuanzebe, El Ghazi, Hause, David, J Ramsey
Goal: Watkins 47
Man City: Ederson, Cancelo, Dias, Ake, Zinchenko, Fernandinho, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Jesus (Grealish 87), Mahrez, Sterling
Man City subs not used: Steffen, Carson, Foden, Mbete, Palmer, McAtee, Lavia, Wilson-Esbrand
Goals: Dias 27; Bernardo Silva 43
Referee: Mike Dean